Terms of Inclusion: Data, Discourse, Violence

Hoffmann, Anna Lauren
New Media & Society

Inclusion has emerged as an early cornerstone value for the emerging domain of “data ethics.” On the surface, appeals to inclusion appear to address the threat that biased data technologies making decisions or misrepresenting people in ways that reproduce longer standing patterns of oppression and violence. Far from a panacea for the threats of pervasive data collection and surveillance, however, these emerging discourses of inclusion merit critical consideration. Here, I use the lens of discursive violence to better theorize the relationship between inclusion and the violent potentials of data science and technology. In doing so, I aim to articulate the problematic and often perverse power relationships implicit in ideals of “inclusion” broadly, which—if not accompanied by dramatic upheavals in existing hierarchical power structures—too often work to diffuse the radical potential of difference and normalize otherwise oppressive structural conditions.